With live shows and video content fuelling Twitter’s recent profit growth, the social media company is adding to its streaming roster with a slate of Canadian publishers and networks.
Partnerships with Corus Entertainment Inc. and Bell Media, among others, will see exclusive Canadian sports, entertainment and news programming delivered directly to users’ timelines, through content deals announced at a Twitter event in Toronto on Thursday.
Live video offerings, from NFL games to red-carpet events to live news shows produced specifically for the platform, are gaining traction with both publishers and advertisers, according to Kay Madati, Twitter’s global head of content partnerships.
Advertising from video content has been largely credited with stabilizing Twitter’s finances, and is increasingly viewed by the company as a revenue stream with lucrative potential.
“This idea of combining video and conversation is our sweet spot,” Mr. Madati said in an interview. “When something happens in the middle of a sports game, when something happens at an awards show, Twitter is the first thing that lights up.”
While Twitter, with about 336 million monthly active users, will likely never rival Facebook in reach with its 2.2 billion users globally, the San Francisco-based company is gaining some favour with publishers who enjoy a greater degree of control over ad sales and more revenue sharing than on other platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube.
“We are a very flexible partner,” Mr. Madati said. “We’re not here to disintermediate them from their audiences or their advertising relationships. It’s an extension of their reach.”
In April, Twitter announced a batch of new U.S. content deals with the likes of Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp. and Vice Media. The new live streaming offerings in the United States include a Twitter version of ESPN’s flagship SportsCenter show, a concert series from Live Nation and a celebrity series with Ellen DeGeneres.
Twitter’s first Canadian content deal saw the preshow from last year’s iHeartRadio Much Music Video Awards stream exclusively on the platform, supported by ads from Wendy’s Canada and Virgin Mobile Canada.
New Canadian shows will include a cooking program from Food Network Canada, a show called #TrendingTonight by Entertainment Tonight Canada, tech industry news from BetaKit, and sports content from Tennis Canada, Golf Canada and others.
“Sports is an easy one,” Mr. Madati said. “They tend to garner a larger share of advertiser interest.”
In 2016, Twitter signed a deal to stream 10 NFL Thursday night football games – a contract it lost out on last year to Amazon. But the platform continues to offer live NFL content and game clips, as well as programming from Major League Baseball, Formula One auto racing and PGA golf.
The potential audience size for live programming on social media is still unclear, but some publishers are seeing promising numbers. BuzzFeed’s hour-long morning show on Twitter, AM to DM, reaches up to 1.4 million unique viewers each weekday. Bloomberg’s 24/7 news network exclusive to Twitter, TicToc, reaches a similar audience size.
The Weather Channel is also creating a new brand called Pattern, which will include videos produced specifically for Twitter. That news was followed by the announcement that the network would stop publishing videos to Facebook.
“We noticed, over the course of two years, that we were being paid in all types of currencies – followers, shares, views – that did not feel like money,” Neil Katz, global head of content and engagement at The Weather Channel, said during a speech earlier this month.
For Twitter, video has proven to be a stabilizing force, giving a lift to its long-suffering share price. The company recently posted its second consecutive profitable quarter, ending a string of 16 consecutive quarterly losses as a public company. The reversal owed much to video, which accounts for half of Twitter’s ad revenue and is the fastest growing ad category.
“We believe U.S. ad revenue can accelerate further as Twitter drives stronger ad products, led by video,” JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth wrote in a recent note.